When planning your dream getaway, don’t shy away from Mexico because of safety concerns. At least not in Baja California Sur, which is located at the southern half of the Baja Peninsula. This area is free from the perceived danger travelers might have of Mexico. In fact, it’s one of the most beautiful places on the planet and the least expensive way to go is to fly into Cabo (flying into the smaller La Paz airport is much more expensive), then rent a car for the two-hour drive north to La Paz. You may think, “Why do I have to drive two hours to get to my destination?” The answer: The Costa Baja Resort is a five star luxury destination that won’t set your pocketbook back thousands like Cabo, and on your way, you can stop off at a quaint little town called Todos Santos and have a tasty lunch, a cold beer, pick up some colorful, painted pottery or a Mexican rug, and visit the famed Hotel California where Don Henley apparently received inspiration to write his song. Everything is true except the Don Henley connection. The rumor was started years ago to bring tourism to this small, relatively unknown town between Cabo and La Paz. And, in grand public relations style, it worked! Todos Santos is a thriving tourist attraction where you can spend a couple of leisurely hours and really enjoy yourself!
Once in La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur, you are taken along the Malecon (which means a stone embankment along the waterfront) on your way to the resort. The Malecon is a beautiful and lively place where you can window shop, have a nice bite to eat, take in the sculptures along the boardwalk overlooking the Sea of Cortez and just people watch. The locals, which include a lot of expatriates who have chosen to retire in La Paz, are extremely friendly, fun-loving and ready to share the La Paz experience with any and all comers.
Costa Baja Resort and Spa
The winding road that takes you high above La Paz with great views of the waterfront beckons you into paradise. It is especially angelic at night with soft street lights that resemble farolitos to light your way. You finally arrive at a large entranceway that states Costa Baja Resort and a gate house for security. After passing that checkpoint, you realize you have arrived at a very special place indeed as you drive through a complex array of private condos, restaurants, fountains, swaying palms, a serene marina and colored lights as the road finally leads to the main entrance of the hotel where you are greeted with friendly faces willing to assist and please. The resort happens to be nestled cozily in a cove on the Sea of Cortez, which the famed Jacques Cousteau described as “the world’s aquarium” and “the Galapagos of North America.”
Our room was ultra-contemporary with old world features such as a freestanding, frosted glass shower next to our king size bed. The shower was adorned with what looked like natural slate panels in a soft grayish hue for a strong, somewhat masculine feel. Well appointed with a large screen TV, writing desk, dressers, refrigerator, coffee bar and recessed lighting above the grandiose bed for reading and ambience, we had all the comforts of home. For exterior flair, we relaxed on a second floor balcony overlooking the beautiful infinite pool, marina and Sea of Cortez peeking through the palms.
The Costa Baja resort is much more than a 115-room hotel. There are tennis courts and an exercise room down at the beach, as well as more infinite pools, jacuzzis and an outdoor bar and restaurant. The 550-acre community development includes custom homes and condominiums, 1/9 fractional time shares, a 2,500 sq.ft. ballroom for corporate events, a luxury marina and a Gary Player Signature Golf Course, ranked among the top 10 in Mexico and was even named 7th best in Mexico in its first year by Golf and Spa Magazine.
Steinbeck’s Fine Dining
Steinbeck’s is the place for premiere fine dining at the resort. This large space is a combination of contemporary chic mixed with rustic maritime to create a trendy feel with roots marked in history as the famed author John Steinbeck visited La Paz in 1940 and describes the town in his work, “The Pearl.” Starting with an amuse bouche of creamy white carob with caviar, arugula and sprouts prepares the palette for what’s to come. Here the chef treats you to fresh offerings from the Sea of Cortez, from tuna and green apple tartar to shrimp bisque and tender yellowtail. It is truly a feast for the senses. Filling out the menu are delicious chicken, pork loin, duck and Angus prime meats for the discerning diner. Service is impeccable with indoor and outdoor live music on the patio. Bravo!
The Espiritu Spa
My wife and I were lucky to experience a fantastic new treatment called the Neuro Vital couples massage. The massage starts with the therapists choosing the right body oil to be used through a technique where they place the oil near your heart and place a metal rod nearby that tells them if this particular oil gels with the person’s body chemistry. If not, the rod rejects it. It was fascinating! In fact, by the end of the experience, both my wife and I had been transported to a different place. The spa also offers facials, body treatments, hair and nail services, a fitness center and private yoga and Pilates.
Fun Baja Tours
A visit to this resort is not complete without a Fun Baja tour. We chose the snorkeling with sea lions and whale sharks excursion. Lorenzo is our guide for a full day of water adventure in the Sea of Cortez. After about an hour cruise, we arrive at an island where we snorkeled with playful sea lions and watched the hungry pelicans dive for fish. We then motored out to a pristine beach for lunch and a swim in the amazing, turquoise waters. After lunch we cruised to the whale sharks (they are friendly, plankton eating creatures) where we found many we could swim with and observe up close and personal. They measure up to 22 feet!! THESE TOURS ARE AWESOME AND NOT TO BE MISSED!
IF YOU GO
Costa Baja Resort – costabajaresort.com, 877.392.5525
Car rental – carrentals.com
Flickr slideshow: lapazcostabajaresort
WARNING: Pay for your rental car in advance and give yourself a solid hour after you land to state your rental car reservation pick-up time because of customs and delays at Cabo airport. Also, take the main highway to La Paz and not the scenic route through the mountains.
Richard Atkins is a travel writer, playwright, pianist and actor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. All photos are by Richard Atkins.